Queen Charlotte Track
After one night in the really fantastic “Tombstone Backpackers” in Picton we took the afternoon Water Taxi to Ship Cove to get started on the Queen Charlotte Track.
The water taxi was really also the mail boat and we stopped at a few peoples jetties to drop off their respective mail. That way the tour was a bit touristy but also pretty interesting. We learned a lot about the Sound and its residents. Last but not least we got to see a school of dolphins out in the sounds. That was just beautiful.
At about 3pm we got to Ship Cove. The only other person getting off the boat was a guy with a mountainbike who was going to bike the trail. It felt weird when the boat was gone, and the Mountainbiker had started on the trail and suddenly we were all alone. But also very exciting!
We only had a short walk, about 4km, to “Schoolhouse Bay Campsite”, the first of the DOC Campsites on the trail. We thoroughly enjoyed it. Without any time pressure being put on us it was just us and the trail and the forest around us. We saw a lot of birds, including our first Weka.
When we got closer to the campsite we heard it well before we got there. The story got a little twist when we realized there was a class of school kids staying there, too. 15 teenage boys, and goodness, they were loud! We didn’t let that bother us and set up camp right beside the shore, then prepared some dinner.
After dinner we ate an orange that we had brought to celebrate our first night out on the trail. And when we had eaten it, Tim saw an orange thing on the shore. We got a little bit confused, then just thought it was some kind of ball. A few minutes later the Mountainbiker, and Australian guy, who was also staying the same campsite came over to ask us if we had dropped an orange. Turned out it was no ball, but a real orange and it didn't belong to anyone. The Australian thought was ours and was happy when it wasn’t - on seeing ours he had thought he would like one also - and suddenly there it was.
Once night fell we crawled into our sleeping bags. But then Tim couldn’t sleep with the sounds of the sea besides us. We were really close and it had been low tide when we got there. So what when high tide came? In the end everything turned out alright though. No water in our tent.
In the morning we were woken up by the sounds of birds singing. The sun was out too and we had our porridge breakfast. Then we packed up our stuff, which took way longer than we wanted, and got on our way. We had planned about 15km to start the trail slowly. But walking was good and we were faster than expected. Then around 1pm just shortly before we arrived at the possible campground it started raining. Since we still felt fresh enough and didn’t want to set up camp in the rain anyways we decided to continue on. That meant another 8km, but that worked out perfectly. We got to Camp Bay around 4pm. This one was a slightly bigger campground and when we arrived there was no one there but us.
Two ladies that turned out to be the DOC camp hosts welcomed us and we had a nice chat about all the germans in New Zealand, camping and tramping in general, and about our seat cushions that they were very excited about.
Later in the day one other person arrived at the campsite, another german girl. She also helped us out with some sandfly repellent, as we were basically eaten alive by those evil little creatures. Our legs look a bit like we have a disease like measles or something, due to all the red dots we got from the sandfly bites.
We woke up pretty early with the sun out and the birds singing. Breakfast was nice with the additional company of our DOC host ladies and Nadia. After breakfast we got on our way and Nadia joined us for the day. Our goal today was the Black Rock Campsite, about 18km from Camp Bay.
It soon got very hot, the first really hot day since we arrived. The sun was out permanently and burned down on us. The intensity is very different from our normal European sun and we were sunburned in a really short time - before we had even though to take out sunscreen.
While the first two days had mostly led through regenerating native forests that appeared very dense with thick undergrowth, low bushes and high silver ferns, today brought us through pine and beech forests that were more similar to our European forests.
Whenever we walked in the shade, the path would be really muddy and slippery, and Tim almost fell twice. When we were in the sun, the ground was hard and dry, and sometimes the ground changed between both with just a few meters walk.
We arrived at Black Rock around 4pm and said our good bye to Nadia. When setting up camp we met yet another German who stayed at the same campsite today. He walked the TA also but already had done the North Island also. We discussed the upcoming trail sections and asked for his advice for food planning, road walking and hitchhiking as those are things we aren’t too sure about yet.
While we were brushing our teeth later, a weka tried to steal the bag that usually contains our pot, and also all our spices. By the time we noticed it the bird had already pulled the net bag into the trees and picked apart our little ziploc bag of sugar. We retrieved our stuff and then made sure to pack everything weka-safe before letting it out of our sight again.
Then we went to bed for an early night as we wanted to start the next day earlier than those before.
The next morning started with a short shower of rain that got our nice, dry tent wet before we could pack it up. That didn’t keep us from starting early today though and we were on the trail at 8 in the morning - a first.
The plan was to walk at least to Davies Bay Campsite to sleep there, about 22km, or Anakiwa, 25km, and hitchhike to Havelock where we could by food for the next stretch of the TA.
The sun was burning again, but walking was easy today, although we had to master yet another few very slippery, muddy slopes. We had now found a rhythm for walking though and found it easy to beat the DOC time estimates. For a stretch of 9km, estimated to take 3-4hours due to mud and steepness, we only needed two, and the same worked out for another 12km stretch expected to take 3-4 hours also. That way we got to Davies Bay earlier than expected, so we decided to finish the trail today. We walked the remaining 3km and then suddenly we were done with the Queen Charlotte Track.
Our next step was trying to hitch to Havelock, but for that we had to walk another 4km to the next main road. The sun was burning and there was no shade, and we had little water. Once up at the main road we walked for a little longer, trying to thumb down cars but soon decided that we were too tired and had to little water to stay there for long. Luckily there was the Smiths Farm Holiday Park just a few meters ahead, where we ended up not just getting a campsite, but a really nice and warm welcome. We were offered water and given muffins and then we set up camp. After that we enjoyed a nice shower - three days in small campgrounds with no facilities really make you appreciate the little things.
The day had led us 30km through forest and on the roads and we were just soo glad to finally settle down for the day.
Once dusk came, we walked the Farm walkway up into the woods to a little waterfall and to see the glow worms out in the forest. We were a little “scared” walking by the young bulls and in the other pen the sheep followed us and didn’t want to let us leave again because we were carrying food. But the walk was nice and the glow worms were amazing. As soon as it got dark they started glowing, making the banks of the little creek we followed look like a starry sky. Well worth the long walk of the day to the Farm and the short one up into the woods.